State launches Lap-Band investigation
Two former employees alleged in a Jan. 17 whistle-blower lawsuit that workers at the surgery centers encouraged patients to have "medically unnecessary" surgeries and billed insurers for procedures that were not performed.

Westlake Village attorney Alexander Robertson, who represents former surgery center workers Dyanne Deuel and Karla Osorio in that lawsuit, declined to say whether his clients had met with law enforcement officials.

"Our lawsuit does allege fraudulent billing practices," Robertson said. "We alleged that their actions violated the state insurance code."

The lawsuit also accused the surgery centers of operating in unsanitary conditions, using equipment that was not properly sterilized and covering up the circumstances behind Rojeski's death.

According to the lawsuit, medical staff forgot to turn on the oxygen before Rojeski's surgery and a tube that was supposed to fill her bloodstream with medication became dislodged during surgery, causing the solution to pool on the floor.

Also pending are a series of wrongful-death lawsuits that seek damages from 1-800-GET-THIN, the surgery centers and doctors involved in the surgeries.

One lawsuit faulted the work of an anesthesiologist named Daniel Shin, who was on probation with the state medical board at the time of the surgery because of a criminal conviction for assault with a deadly weapon.

In December, the FDA stepped into the matter, issuing a warning letter to 1-800-GET-THIN that accused the firm of failing to adequately disclose risks of the surgery. Meanwhile, three members of Congress are calling for hearings on the advertising campaign and the safety and effectiveness of the Lap-Band device.

Silverman, the 1-800-GET-THIN president, told the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors that the company had modified its website to address the FDA's concerns. The website now includes a prominent disclosure that the surgery can result in death.

At that meeting, Silverman also said the company planned to address the FDA's concerns about the billboards. Many of the billboards remain unchanged.

Attorneys for 1-800-GET-THIN said in a court filing last year that the marketing firm had scheduled more than 10,000 Lap-Band surgeries in its first 15 months.

stuart.pfeifer@latimes.com

Times staff writer W.J. Hennigan contributed to this report.